Ski industry pioneer, Earl Ervin Clark, died on Sunday, 28 December, at his home in Littleton, Colorado. He was 95 years old.
Clark, a Londonderry, Vermont native and long-time Colorado resident, became a member of the Rocky Mountain Division of the NSP after World War II. He served as volunteer Patrol Director at Arapahoe Basin on weekends after leaving active duty with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. He also served as a patroller at Loveland, Berthoud Pass and Winter Park. He was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 2001.
Earl Clark was born on 3 July 1919, and had his first skiing and mountaineering experiences in Illinois, Wisconsin, Montana and Colorado after his family moved to Illinois. He grew up in the Chicago area and learned to ski nearby at Wilmot Hills, and at Rib Mountain in Wausau, Wisconsin. After graduating from high school in 1936 he traveled to Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, fueling a lifelong passion for mountaineering. Clark was a charter member of the Chicago Mountaineering Club in 1941, helping to set up a high mountain ski camp in Grand Teton’s Alaska Basin.
Clark was one of NSP co-founder Minnie Dole’s early recruits in 1942 for what would later become the 10th Mountain Division. He joined the US Army’s experimental ski mountaineering combat unit, which later became the 1st Battalion of the 87th Infantry Regiment. The nucleus of that regiment would ultimately form the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. The National Ski Patrol was named as the official recruitment agency for that unit, and Dole was given the task to recruit 25,000 men in 60 days for the 87th Infantry. Clark was one of the first 1,000 troops recruited. He attending Officers’ Candidate School in Georgia and later served as a Lieutenant and troop trainer at Camp Hale, in Colorado’s Eagle River valley outside Leadville, in 1941.
The 10th Mountain Division was one of the most successful military combat units in history, but not without cost. More than 25% of its troops were either seriously injured or killed (a little over 5% were killed). Clark was among the fortunate and left active duty in early 1946 as a Captain, serving in the Army reserves for a number of years and eventually retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Many 10th Mountain troops and early NSP members founded ski resorts around the US after returning from the war, including Aspen and Vail. Vail was founded by Pete Seibert Sr., a 10th Mountain member that trained with Clark at Camp Hale. Troops referred-to Camp Hale, now known as Vail Mountain, as “the perfect ski mountain”. Pete Seibert’s grandson, Tony Seibert, was killed in an early January 2014 avalanche incident at Vail shortly after appearing in segments of a new Warren Miller film commemorating his grandfather and the famed 10th Mountain Division. (related Ski-Patrol.net coverage) Pete Seibert Sr. was originally from Massachusetts and patrolled at Aspen after the war before founding Vail with rancher and fellow 10th Mountain Division colleague, Earl Eaton, in 1962. Pete Sr. died in 2002 at age 77.
Clark received a business degree from the University of Denver after the war before beginning his 30-year career as an insurance executive. He was the regional general agent for Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company in Colorado, Wyoming and Western Nebraska prior to his retirement. Clark helped found the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, becoming its first National President. He served as a leader and founding member of numerous organizations associated with his passions of mountaineering, military service and ski patrolling, and was honored throughout his life by many of those organizations. Despite his long service to the NSP, however, he never received an NSP National Appointment. Clark was pre-deceased by his wife Betty (Grunwald) Clark. He has one son, Craig, and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been set.
Captain Harvey Coffin Mackay House, 19 Pleasant Street, Suite 3F, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930, U.S.A.